High-capacity cooling options remain limited for many small-scale applications such as microelectronic components, miniature sensors, and microsystems. A microelectromechanical system (MEMS) using a Stirling thermodynamic cycle to provide cooling or heating directly to a thermally loaded surface is being developed at the NASA Glenn Research Center to meet this need. The device can be used strictly in the cooling mode or can be switched between cooling and heating modes in milliseconds for precise temperature control. Fabrication and assembly employ techniques routinely used in the semiconductor processing industry. Benefits of the MEMS cooler include scalability to fractions of a millimeter, modularity for increased capacity and staging to low temperatures, simple interfaces, limited failure modes, and minimal induced vibration. The MEMS cooler has potential applications across a broad range of industries such as the biomedical, computer, automotive, and aerospace industries. The basic capabilities it provides can be categorized into four key areas: 1) Extended environmental temperature range in harsh environments; 2) Lower operating temperatures for electronics and other components; 3) Precision spatial and temporal thermal control for temperature-sensitive devices; and 4) The enabling of microsystem devices that require active cooling and/or temperature control. The rapidly expanding capabilities of semiconductor processing in general, and microsystems packaging in particular, present a new opportunity to extend Stirling-cycle cooling to the MEMS domain. The comparatively high capacity and efficiency possible with a MEMS Stirling cooler provides a level of active cooling that is impossible at the microscale with current state-of-the-art techniques. The MEMS cooler technology builds on decades of research at Glenn on Stirling-cycle machines, and capitalizes on Glenn s emerging microsystems capabilities.